For Yazidi survivors of Daesh killings, the nightmares go on

A Yazidi woman holds her baby at a refugee camp in Mount Sinjar, Iraq February 4, 2019. Picture taken February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily
Updated 19 February 2019
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For Yazidi survivors of Daesh killings, the nightmares go on

  • More than 3,000 other members of their minority sect were killed in 2014 in an onslaught that the United Nations described as genocidal
  • More than four years later, some 2,500 families still live in the tents that are scattered along the hills that weave their way toward the summit

SINJAR, Iraq: Ever since Daesh visited death and destruction on their villages in northern Iraq nearly five years ago, Yazidis Daoud Ibrahim and Kocher Hassan have had trouble sleeping.
For Hassan, 39, who was captured, it is her three missing children, and three years of imprisonment at the hands of the extremist group.
For Ibrahim, 42, who escaped, it is the mass grave that he returned to find on his ravaged land.
“They burnt one house down, blew up the other, they torched the olive trees two three times...There is nothing left,” the father of eight told Reuters.
More than 3,000 other members of their minority sect were killed in 2014 in an onslaught that the United Nations described as genocidal.
Ibrahim and Hassan lived to tell of their suffering, but like other survivors, they have not moved on.
She will never set foot in her village of Rambousi again. “My sons built that house. I can’t go back without them...Their school books are still there, their clothes,” she said.
’They want to be buried’
As US President Donald Trump prepares to announce the demise of the extremist group in Syria and Iraq, UN data suggests many of those it displaced in the latter country have, like Hassan, not returned home.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim and his family live in a barn next to the pile of rubble that was once their home. He grows wheat because the olive trees will need years to grow again. No one is helping him rebuild, so he is doing it himself, brick by brick.
“Life is bad. There is no aid,” he said sitting on the edge of the collapsed roof which he frequently rummages under to find lost belongings. On this day, it was scarves, baby clothes and a photo album.
“Every day that I see this mass grave I get ten more grey hairs,” he said.
The grave, discovered in 2015 just outside nearby Sinjar city, contains the remains of more than 70 elderly women from the village of Kocho, residents say.
“I hear the cries of their spirits at the end of the night. They want to be buried, but the government won’t remove their remains.” They and their kin also want justice, Ibrahim adds.
When the militants came, thousands of Yazidis fled on foot toward Sinjar mountain. More than four years later, some 2,500 families — including Hassan and five of her daughters — still live in the tents that are scattered along the hills that weave their way toward the summit.
The grass is green on the meadows where children run after sheep and the women pick wild herbs.
But the peaceful setting masks deep-seated fears about the past and the future.
Grateful for the sun
Until a year and a half ago, Hassan and five of her children were kept in an underground prison in Raqqa with little food and in constant fear of torture.
She doesn’t know why Islamic State freed her and the girls, then aged one to six, and hasn’t learnt the fate of the three remaining children: two boys Fares and Firas, who would be 23 and 19 now, and Aveen, a girl who would be 13.
There is no electricity or running water in the camp where they live today. She doesn’t remember when her children last ate fruit. “Life here is very difficult but I thank God that we are able to see the sun,” she said.
During the day, her children go to school and are happy, but at night “they are afraid of their own shadow,” and she herself has nightmares.
“Last night, I dreamt they were slaughtering my child,” she said.
Mahmoud Khalaf, her husband, says Islamic State not only destroyed their livelihoods. The group broke the trust between Yazidis and the communities of different faiths and ethnicities they had long lived alongside.
“There is no protection. Those who killed us and held us captive and tormented us have returned to their villages,” Khalaf, 40, said referring to the neighboring Sunni Arab villages who the Yazidis say conspired with the militants.
“We have no choice but to stay here...They are stronger than us.”


Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

Updated 46 min 8 sec ago
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Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

  • EU foreign ministers said they are suspending talks with Turkey over air transport agreement
  • They backed EU’s proposal to decrease financial assistance to Turkey

ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday rejected as “worthless” an initial set of sanctions approved by the European Union against Ankara, and vowed to send a new vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce its efforts to drill for hydrocarbons off the island of Cyprus.
EU foreign ministers on Monday approved sanctions against Turkey over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. They said they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement, as well as high-level Turkey-EU dialogues, and would call on the European Investment Bank to review its lending to the country.
They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.
Speaking at a news conference in Macedonia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the sanctions aimed to “appease” Cyprus and were of “no importance.”
“The EU needs us concerning the migration issue or other issues,” he said. “They will come to us and hold contacts; there is no escaping that.”
“They know that the decisions they took cannot be applied,” he said. “They were forced to take the worthless decisions under pressure from the Greek Cypriots and Greece.”
Cavusoglu added: “If you take such decisions against Turkey, we will increase our activities. We have three ships in the eastern Mediterranean, will with send a fourth.”
Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU for ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots and accused the 28-nation bloc of “prejudice and bias.”
It added that Turkey was determined to protect its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus. A third Turkish exploration ship is also in the area. Turkey insists that it has rights over certain offshore zones and that Turkish Cypriots have rights over others.
Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.
Cypriot officials accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.
The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 68 kilometers off the island’s west coast.